Wildcats working to stop Smith

By Joel Jellison

There are probably many ways to describe what Geno Smith has done this season, but one word seems to describe it perfectly.


The West Virginia quarterback has completed 196-of-260 passes this season for 2,274 yards and 25 touchdowns in just six games. His interceptions? He hasn’t thrown any. And he’s been sacked just seven times in a pass heavy offense.

Even at his worst this season in the Mountaineers 49-14 loss at Texas Tech, Smith still threw for 275 yards and a touchdown.

How did the Red Raiders slow down the Heisman Trophy candidate? Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said it was a combination of good defense and weather conditions that caught the West Virginia passing attack off guard.

“Texas Tech did a nice job defensively, ” he said. “It was a wind condition that I don’t think West Virginia had been accustomed to. I think first and foremost, it was Texas Tech just played extremely well.”

The loss might take away from the Mountaineers position in the national title hunt, at least for now, but it didn’t take away from the kind of season Smith has had. One that has some seeing double in comparisons to 2011 Heisman winning quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Even Snyder admitted he sees some of the comparisons in how dynamic each player is, and how well they used their talented weapons around them.

One difference between the two is how often they used their feet to escape the pocket. Griffin’s ability to run the ball and throw it put him in a league of his own in 2011. So far this season, Smith has not shown an interest in leaving the pocket.

But Snyder said you still have to expect that he could take off at some point. That’s why it’s so difficult to defend him. If a team commits too much to stopping him from running, he can hurt them with his arm, and vice versa.

“Smith is extremely talented, but he has a lot of people around him that help,” he said. “That just makes it harder for you to do whatever you want to do — cover him or rush him.”

That West Virginia offense includes wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, two of the best at their position in the country. And the Mountaineers have shown they can run too, with Andrew Buie going for more than 200 yards on the ground at Texas.

Senior cornerback Nigel Malone said even if they find ways to slow down Smith, other guys will get the ball and get it done for West Virginia.

“That’s the thing about going against there offense — they’re going to get theirs,” he said “Just the way they’re built, the way they’re run and some of the great minds you have running the offense, they’re going to try to mix it up and challenge you.”

One word Snyder used to sum up the Mountaineers offense — amazing.

“For Geno Smith to have all of those numbers that he has, those gaudy numbers, and no interceptions to go along with it, is a great tribute to his decision-making ability, and to his receivers, who really do a nice job breaking on the ball, getting themselves open,” he said. “You don’t very often see a group with a quarterback and a group of receivers like that.”

Snyder said it’s also amazing how Smith handles the wide spread coverage he personally received.

“What I know about Geno Smith, and I’ve never met the young man, but I appreciate that he shows a great deal of humility with all the attention that is paid to him. He sounds like a quality young person.”

With only seven sacks on Smith, its clear that a solid pass rush could help ease the pains caused by the air raid offense.

Even though Texas Tech had just one sack in its win over West Virginia, Snyder said you’d be hard pressed to slow down Smith without one.

“I think it probably goes without saying if you don’t, you’ve got some real problems,” he said. “He’s proven that he’s so very, very capable, and he’s capable when he gets a pass rush, but you probably have a little bit better chance if you hurry the throws a little bit, if you can get some kind of pressure on him. But that’s not the easiest task in the world.”

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